A trio of swimming coaches are using video technology to pick apart and improve the technique of 90-plus athletes.
Matt Sanderson, Rekha Ravichandran and Jon Overment set up and run Swim Revolution, a coaching service for anyone looking to improve their skills in the water.
They help everyone from triathletes to open water swimmers or those who just enjoy getting fit by thrashing up and down a pool.
Weekly group sessions at the newly built Graves Health and Sports Centre and Goodwin Swimming Pool at the University of Sheffield are attended by the almost 100 swimmers on the Swim Revolution books
The coaches also offer one to one sessions however, and video analysis plays a big part in improving an individual’s technique.
Rekha, who met Matt on a ‘Swim Smooth’ course run by a renowned Australia-based coach Paul Newsom before setting up their swim squad, said: “Video swim analysis is always a revelation for swimmers the first time they have it - with most having little idea what their body is really doing whilst they’re swimming.
“Most of us think we’re moving like Michael Phelps through the water so the reality can be a bit of a shock.”
All three of the Swim Revolution coaches are triathletes in their own right and my hope was that they could fix my very rudimentary front crawl, or freestyle, technique.
Rekha was confident that their video analysis would benefit me, eventually.
“Some people can react very quickly following analysis - once they can see what they are doing they can make changes straight away to make themselves more efficient,” she said.
“For others it takes a little longer, when habits are very ingrained - or if a swimmer has weak proprioception.
“For those swimmers, a programme of targeted drills is important to undo bad habits and replace them with good ones.”
Matt was the man in charge for my one-to-one session in the plush surrounds of the new multimillion pound development at Graves, while his fellow coaches ran their Monday night group through a series of drills.
After a brief explanation of what I could expect, having grilled me on my experience in the water and my aims as a self confessed slow amateur triathlete, Matt set me off on a warm up before the videoing commenced.
Using a camera on a stick, Matt filmed me swimming from the side, above and from in front and then uploaded the footage to a laptop while I embarked on some drills.
Before we even sat down poolside to look through the video, he had picked up on some weaknesses in my swim stroke.
The video exposed even more.
My hand entry was poor on the right hand side, meaning my elbow was often breaking the water before my hand, essentially an inefficient way to go about catching the water and pulling your way through it.
Once my hand was in the water, my arm was too straight for the pull phase, causing me to push down on the water, rather than pushing it behind me to propel me forward.
A lack of rotation in my torso was also causing a right arm crossover which in turn sent my legs swinging to the left, especially on my non breathing strokes.
It wasn’t all bad however, my breathing and position in the water weren’t horrific. A good starting point.
What followed was an introduction to drills that would help improve my specific weakenesses, all explained in the most clear and concise way by my coach for the evening.
The doggy paddle and sculling were both new to me but will improve my feel for the water.
Focusing on spearing my hand into the water will help me to keep a high elbow and begin the pull phase of my stroke earlier.
And kicking on my side and ‘javelin’ drills will improve my stability in the lead arm and work to arrest the collapse of my stroke under the water.
One really simple trick Matt suggested to get rid of a flaw in my leg kick, when they flailed apart during breathing strokes, was just to focus on touching my big toes when I came up to breathe.
I’ve always found swimming a mind blowing task, having to concentrate on so many aspects of a stroke at once – head down, body roll, high elbow etc.
But Matt showed me how to break it all down and work at each flaw individually.
All his advice was compiled in an analysis report, complete with the video footage, still images and his recommendations moving forward.
He’s keen to point out that this kind of coaching is not just for elite sportsmen and women.
“There are very few adult swim sessions in the area and the swim smooth approach is very much open water and triathlon specific in its approach,” he said.
“Sheffield has a growing number of triathletes and open water swimmers and we wanted to provide a high level service where athletes could come in and swim with likeminded people of similar paces and abilities.
“While we do have a handful of quick swimmers our main users are 35-plus and are looking to improve their basic swim technique along with conditioning and pacing.”
One of their quick swimmers is Charlotte Cooper, bass player in rock band The Subways and long distance triathlete.
She’s been with Swim Revolution since their launch and credits their coaches for making her quicker.
“As an club ex-swimmer I had lots of bad habits, which were hindering my speed and efficiency in the water,” she said.
“Through video swim analysis and continued work in training sessions with specific drills provided by the coaches, I’ve seen a huge improvement in my times.
“It’s also made swimming a far more enjoyable experience for me.
“After many of my teenage years spent getting up at 5.30am three times a week to train, I’ve never been the most motivated swimmer as an adult; Swim Rev has brought back the joy of swimming for me.”
Swim Revolution sessions are held on Monday at 8pm at Graves and Goodwin at 7.15am on Wednesday morning.
Swimmers can pay for single sessions at £8.50 or buy 10 for £75.
For more information visit http://www.swimrevolution.co.uk/ or find them on Facebook.